A Slow Boat through Cheshire and Middlewich Conundra

The weather continued to be blisteringly hot, and the Cheshire locks optimally spaced (not!) so progress was slow. Leaving Church Lawton on Thursday we chuntered gently down. We met a boat similar to ours that had tried to get around Marple Locks the other way to our original plan: they’d got stuck even thought only 6ft10in wide like us so they’d unhappily had to come back around the long way.

After a mere 3.5 miles, but 10 locks, we’d had enough and moored near Lock 57. There used to be a lovely small restaurant here (we’d discovered it accidentally by car while avoiding a huge M6 fiasco near Sandbach some years ago) but alas, no more.

Loch 57 itself is close by the M6, and Lock 58 almost underneath, and while locking down and under the motorway, we counted 9 Eddies in twenty minutes. This may of course be related to the large Stobart depot right by Junction 15, a few miles away. Sadly, one can’t watch out for Norberts anymore – that’s progress I guess. But pondering on the solid bumper to bumper and wall to wall procession of HGVs and white vans struggling even to maintain 40 mph one couldn’t help thinking there must be a better way. Doubtless all the billions being poured into HS2 will solve all these problems…

Another 3.5 miles and 10 locks on Friday saw us through the village of Wheelock for lunch and within spitting distance of Middlewich. From there we’d be in uncharted territory (for us).

Saturday saw us finishing the Cheshire Locks, and mooring for lunch and shopping in the middle of Middlewich. We were exactly a week early for the long running Middlewich Folk and Boat festival, but you would never have guessed. Apart from a couple of small CaRT signs on the towpath marking reserved moorings for trade boats, wandering round the town you would never have guessed there was a significant music festival only a week ahead: no sign of any publicity at all. And a few days before the website showed only one booked guest – a “post punk” rock band. We wonder if anyone turned up, let alone any folkies!

Anyway, in a post Tesco euphoria, we headed on down out of Middlewich into Salt Mining territory and moored up on one of the “flashes” that mark this section of the Trent & Mersey. A flash occurs where the ground by the canal has subsided into the salt mine/workings underneath, giving the appearance of substantial lakes rather like a favourite spot of ours – The Broad Water at Tixall (known as Tixall Wide). But unlike Tixall, they’re very shallow – caution definitely required if you’re thinking of straying far from the towpath side of the canal.

The other oddity around here is just as you leave Middlewich, you descend through The Big Lock. This is a proper job double width lock just like those on broad canals like the Grand Union. But with all the other locks and bridges either side only catering for narrow boats we were rather left scratching our heads.

Mind you, it was still hot and sunny…

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